Jerusalem reboots controversial cable car plan
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Jerusalem reboots controversial cable car plan

Despite sensitivities, municipality advancing scenic tramway that will whisk visitors to the Old City

The Western Wall plaza with the Temple Mount in the background, as thousands of visitors arrive in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 16, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)
The Western Wall plaza with the Temple Mount in the background, as thousands of visitors arrive in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Jewish holiday of Passover, April 16, 2014. (photo credit: Flash90)

The Jerusalem municipality is reportedly reintroducing a controversial plan to build a cable car system that will transport visitors to the Old City and other religious sites.

Municipal representatives have been conducting measurements in recent weeks to assess where the infrastructure can be laid, Israeli Haaretz reported Thursday.

The plan was first announced in 2013 by Mayor Nir Barkat, though it never reached practical planning stages.

Municipal officials were in talks with a French contracting company regarding the project, French newspaper Le Figaro reported Thursday.

Municipality officials confirmed the project was in the works, and will soon be submitted to the city’s planning committee.

“The project was planned in order to address transportation issues in the Old City area, and was selected because it does not require heavy infrastructure and will not harm important sites in the area,” a spokesperson said.

Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, February 23, 2015 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)
Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, February 23, 2015 (photo credit: Hadas Parush/Flash90)

“The project will serve the residents of [east Jerusalem’s] Silwan, a-Tur, Mount of Olives and the Old City, as well as visitors and tourists of all religions,” he added.

The cable car system will include four stations, one at Jerusalem’s First Station, outside the Old City’s Dung Gate, and on the Mount of Olives, according to the Haaretz report. A scrapped plan envisioned running the cable cars above the Temple Mount.

Dozens of massive poles will facilitate the system, to be constructed adjacent to some of the city’s most sensitive religious locations. The venture is estimated to cost the city NIS 250 million.

Planners of the system said it will relieve congested traffic, reducing private vehicles by an estimated 30 percent, and buses by 50%, and pollution as a consequence.

Thousands gather for a mass prayer for the release of three kidnapped Jewish teenagers, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City on June 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Thousands gather for a mass prayer for the release of three kidnapped Jewish teenagers, at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on June 15, 2014. (photo credit: Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

If it reaches advanced stages, the project is expected to face fierce political and environmental opposition.

“This venture is a crime against Jerusalem… It’s Disney-fying the city. The mayor and the government are treating Jerusalem as a tourist destination, but they have no respect for it,” Jerusalem activist and lawyer Daniel Seidemann told Haaretz.

“It’s like opening a skating ring in the Vatican in order to increase pilgrimages,” he added. “How can anyone possibly think of building a cable car 150 meters from the al-Aqsa mosque [on the Temple Mount] and expect applause?”

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